A Kantian critique of scientific essentialism

According to Kant in the Prolegomena, the natural kind proposition (GYM) "Gold is a yellow metal" is analytically true, necessary, and a priori. Saul Kripke and Hilary Putnam have argued that on the contrary propositions such as (GYM) are neither analytic, nor necessary, nor a priori. The Kripke-Putnam view is based on the doctrine of "scientific essentialism" (SE). It is a direct consequence of SE that propositions such as (GE) "Gold is the element with atomic number number 79" are metaphysically necessary and a posteriori. Were Kant to travel by time-machine to the present and to consider (GE), however, he would regard it as metaphysically contingent; and even if he were able to admit it as necessary, it would be synthetic a priori, and not a posteriori. In these ways, the conflict between Kant and the scientific essentialists is a sharply-defined one: if the essentialists are right, then the Kantian theory of meaning, necessity, and a priori knowledge is wrong; but if Kant is right, then SE is wrong. As a prolegomenon to the development and defense of Kant's positive theory of natural kind propositions, this paper undertakes a Kantian critique of SE. Following the Introduction, the paper has three sections. The first section spells out the main theses and assumptions of SE. The second section, setting aside the semantic and logical components of SE, focuses on its epistemic and metaphysical components and offers four Kantian arguments against them. The final section offers Kantian "diagnoses" of the flaws in SE exposed by the four critical arguments
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DOI 10.2307/2653754
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